What If the right person comes along at exactly the wrong time? That
question frames the story and eats at the hearts of our star-crossed would-be
lovers. Screenwriter Elan Mastai explains, -It's about those undeniable
connections you make with people that aren't always convenient. Timing is such a
big part of finding the right person. I like the idea of an ethical romantic
comedy - people trying to do the right thing. To me the essential theme of the
movie is you can't lie your way to happiness.
When he saw the production of Toothpaste and Cigars' at the Fringe Festival
in Toronto, Mastai felt inspired to write a script based on the play. -The film
is in many ways different but emotionally it's the same story, says Mastai.
-The difference between adapting a novel is that with a novel you're always
paring down but with a play/short story you get to add. It was that way with
this script. There was a lot of room for me as a writer to add my own ideas. I
took the play, expanded it and added characters.
After being chosen for the coveted Black List, the screenplay was picked up
by David Gross and Jesse Shapira at No Trace Camping. They gave it to director
Michael Dowse, who loved it upon first read and jumped on board immediately.
It has a unique voice that first and foremost is funny and I like how Elan
uses the lead characters' shared sense of humor to actually create and fuel the
romance, says Dowse. -For me, any time you're trying to flirt with somebody, or
get in their pants, it's about comedy. That's sort of the road to that. So I
think it's a smart and very realistic way of bringing these people together.
They share a sort of sardonic outlook and sarcasm and they make each other laugh
to make the audience laugh, and that buys a lot of empathy for the characters.
Although Dowse had never done a romantic comedy before, he's always
appreciated the genre and jumped at the chance to shift the paradigm. -It's a
great genre but it has been maligned by films that were either too saccharine,
too hipsterish or just not funny enough, he says. -Still, I think it has a rich
history of sorts with films like When Harry Met Sally, The Apartment, or
Manhattan where these films can be very witty and very funny and also extremely
When you hit that sweet spot with this genre, it can become a timeless
classic, a film people watch on Valentine's Day. He recognizes that it's been a
while since a romantic comedy has truly broken out, but Dowse thinks WHAT IF has
a chance to be embraced as one of those perennial films by this generation. -The
performances, the script, the comedy and the unique visuals in the film put us
in contention, he says. Having Daniel Radcliffe at the center of the story
makes it even more likely that audiences will embrace the film's reinvention of
the classic romantic comedy for the chance to see one of their most successful
and beloved stars in a very different kind of role. -What we're seeing in this
film is sort of the emergence of a new leading man, says Dowse. -This is a guy
who's had a lot of success as a teenager, and well deserved, but now he's all
grown up, and I think he's ready to take that next step, and he's amazing.
Radcliffe explains what attracted him to this particular story. -In a lot of
romantic comedies I think it can feel a little too easy in people's
relationships but this film accurately takes in some of the complexity of
people's relationships. And, it is really, really funny. That was kind of the
main thing that drew me towards it. Shortly after Radcliffe signed on, Dowse
and the producers saw an early screening of Zoe Kazan's film, Ruby Sparks and
unanimously loved her performance. -We thought Zoe would be brilliant opposite
Daniel, recalls producer David Gross. Dowse met with Kazan after she read the
script and found out that she was just as excited about being in the film as
they were to have her. -We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work with
such a diverse and talented group of actors, says Gross.
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